China's first commercial large-scale solar thermal power plant was put into operation on Wednesday in Qinghai Province with a 50-megawatt capacity.
The company behind the plant, China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), made the announcement in Beijing.
"We have obtained the ability to build an industrial chain around this technology," CGN spokesperson Yuan Changhong told reporters.
The "Delingha project" – named after the city it is located in – can produce 200 million kwh of electricity every year.
Generating the same amount of power with a coal plant will burn 60,000 tons of coal and emit 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas.
What makes the Delingha project stand out is the technology behind it.
Simple but uncommon
Though all solar power plants look similar, they can technically be categorized into two types: Photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP).
The Delingha project belongs to the second type, which is not common in China.
While PV directly convert sunlight into electricity using a special material, CSP uses lenses to concentrate sunlight and heat a traditional steam engine generator.
It is an upgraded version of what we learned in childhood: Using a magnifying glass to heat things up.
CSP is more stable and consistent compared to PV and can serve as basic infrastructure.
"This plant was built on a plateau. It's cold there and the heat transfer oil may freeze," project manager Wang Zhigang said at a press release. "We found a way to keep it flowing even in the winter. First in the world."
The Delingha project is the first among the 20 CSP plants that China plans to build.